If you searched online for “How do I improve my gym’s retention?” I have to assume one of two things:
The fitness business is about 2 things entirely:
If you don’t improve both your acquisition and your retention, you’ll peter out and die at some point along the way. This article is going to dig down the rabbit hole of retention because retention, I’d argue, is more important than acquisition. If you can’t retain your clients, you’ll pay way too much to bring in too many clients who don’t stay anyway. It’s always cheaper to retain a client than it is to acquire a new one.
If you’ve not read my article on “How Do I Measure My Retention Rate” please read that now. That will give you tremendous context to read through the rest of this article.
If you’ve not read my article on “What Impacts My Retention Rate” please read that as well. That will also help you get even more from this article
If you are a whiz at calculating your retention rate, and if you are clear on what’s impacting your retention rate currently, let’s press on.
It’s important to realize that retention rates vary from business to business and industry to industry. If you run a business that sells, I don’t know, custom bow and arrows, you likely would not expect your clients to buy custom bows and arrows monthly, or annually for that matter. The product they have is likely rather expensive and longer-lasting. Contrast that with in-person personal training. That product/service is one that people “should” need to consume every month. This is relevant to think about because you can’t expect 100% retention, and you really can’t expect all businesses to demand the same retention percentages.
In the gyms business, we must break it up into a few more buckets. Theoretically, you’d expect that the more individual touch points a coach/trainer had with her/his clients, the longer the client retention “should” be. Why is that the case? Again, in theory, because the client has more access to and conversations with the coach/trainer, they would have better results than if they were on their own so they’d be more likely to stay longer.
I find client retention to be more closely tied to results + customer experience + the price point leads
What do I mean by that?
If your gym has an amazing customer experience, top-notch facilities, great opportunities for coaching touchpoints, and it’s $1 per month, you’d expect people to stay for a lifetime. That “unicorn” package isn’t realistic, though, because the gym wouldn’t make any money. More specifically, the gym wouldn’t be maximizing client lifetime value or profit. The gym will want to maximize its profit so they will “search for” the price that their clients will pay for as long of a period of time as possible to maximize the profit of the gym.
So, what am I saying?
Yes, you likely will not want 20 years of client retention because you likely won’t be charging enough for your service. Do you want some clients to stay for 20 years? Of course. Do you want as many clients as possible to stay for 20 years? Of course. However, you need to charge the right amount to maximize your profit potential vs the number of clients who can fit into your facility. Now that we have that brutally mind-stretching idea on the table, let’s get to the specifics.
See how much more clear we can now be with the question?
I see the most success when micro gyms have retention rates that exceed 95% each month, or less than 5% churn.
That means if you have 50 clients, you would expect to lose, on average, 2.5 of them in a given month. In OPEX Gyms, we expect 96% or better retention, and many of our gyms get to 97% retention after they implement our model and put strong management practices into place.
If you need a quick reminder on how to properly measure your retention rate by month, by year, and by rolling averages, click here.
There are 2 foundational ideas that we can draw from to improve your client retention. The first deals with how you can think about growing your gym, and the second is about how you think about your client experience so that you can improve as much as possible in the “what you can control” retention bucket.
How can you think about growing your gym perpetually? We like to look at growth by using this framework:
First, you need to think about what your client experience looks like in the first place. You need to map out every step of how you’ll deliver your service to your clients, and you need to identify what parts of that experience are not 100% great so that you can upgrade them.
Once you’ve determined your entire client experience, you then need to design how you and your team will execute on it. This means you need to lay out your exact process, step by step.
Once you have your process laid out, you need to train your coaches – and yourself – on how to run your process. You all need to be able to deliver it with competency, consistency, and care. As you train your team, you should be open to their feedback about how you can improve your client experience. Not until you and your team are rock solid should you take your strategy and put it into play.
You’ll also need to design how you will manage this process. What happens if you or your coaches don’t deliver the service well? What happens if the strategy isn’t working? You should have laid out how you’ll deal with successes and challenges on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual time frame.
Now that everything is “on paper,” you have to go execute.
This is very often where all the money’s made. I’ll make the assumption that you have your entire game plan laid out. If you’re just reading this article, take the time to lay out your game plan before you just go “do.”
Something important to think about is that without a quality strategy, how can you possibly execute in the first place? What are you executing off of? Are you showing up and hoping that things go well?
Once you have your strategy + your process + how you’ll manage it, you must manage the execution of the service from your own hand and your coaches’. It’s the daily management – not micro management – that you will see with your own eyes if your team is executing the plan as it was intended to be delivered.
If things are going really well in your team’s execution, celebrate it because you have built great habits that your team can learn and grow from. If things are going poorly, you must manage your team to better deliver the service. If it’s not the team, if it’s a poor strategy, then you must revisit your strategy every so often to improve it.
The way that you recognize how well you’re doing is that you measure your performance. And, in the context of this article, your best measurement point to understand how well you’re delivering your service is to measure your client retention on an ongoing basis. Are you generally improving month by month (on the average), or are you holding firm or getting worse?
I recommend that you track your retention every single month, but I also recommend that you track why people are leaving through an exit interview process so that you can clearly see what is leading to the retention loss that you’re seeing.
When you do your measurement, you need to make educated inferences from the numbers you see. If you look at your retention, is it moving higher or lower? Why do you suspect that is the case? If you run exit interviews, what are the reasons that clients are giving you them leaving? Do you suspect that their reasons are comprehensive? What can you learn from what you have been told and what you observed? What do your coaches say about why a client left?
It is through the refinement process that you determine what parts of your strategy are solid, what parts of your execution are sound, and how you have performed tangibly over “x” number of days or months.
The beauty of S → E → M → R is that if you commit to it, instead of reacting to each day as it comes, you can proactively design a strategy that when you execute on it well will compound how much you can grow your business.
Now that we have a great business foundation, let’s move to what your client experience – aka your strategy – should yield as an outcome. It’s pretty simple and it’s one of the mottos of OPEX Coaches and Gyms:
Month in and month out, you must put habits into play for you and your coaches that effectively create an environment where your clients continue to enjoy tangible results in and out of the gym, where they build meaningful relationships with you, your coaches, and your gym’s community, and they need to enjoy the process.
The reason we cannot say to do “these 5 things” is because every client requires something a bit different to “win” in all 3 of those buckets. However, you can most definitely set up measurement metrics to clearly show you if your team is building the right habits which you expect would lead to higher retention.
As a coach, this should be second nature to you. You should have a programming platform such as TrueCoach so that you can track all workout results and specific benchmark trends so that both you and your clients can see them.
The way that you can measure these at your gym’s level is to track the percentage of clients that you or your coaches would say “are achieving the results that they set goals around?” You can track this on the same monthly basis. Why I like looking at something like this is because it immediately makes you and your coaches more close to your clients. They are looking more specifically at outcomes which will help them work harder and smarter for all clients.
In an OPEX Gym, we measure this based on our client’s monthly consultation (off of the gym floor) compliance on an ongoing basis. We have measured this in the past and we have found that consultation compliance is a direct indicator of client retention. You may have something slightly different than a monthly consultation, but I highly encourage you to measure something and learn what most directly indicates – i.e. predicts – retention.
Admittedly, this is a harder one to measure, so I often like to measure my team’s efforts and habits. Are we executing on community activities consistently? Are we hitting on the pillars of fun that we have laid out for the gym? If you are consistently hitting those habits and measuring them, you will consistently make your gym’s environment better and more conducive to longer-term retention.
Retention and acquisition make or break gyms, and each percentage point of improvement in both makes you a stronger gym, helps you give your clients better experiences and results, and helps you build a long-term successful gym.
Here is a quick bullet point of reminders for you to think about to improve your gym’s retention:
Learn how to improve your retention rate with this free Coach’s Toolkit.